Here you have them: three of my much-loved, and absolutely perfect nieces & nephews. These are my heart-sister’s daughter & son, and my niece’s husband. With them? Their beaming aunt, who is even prouder of the adults they’ve become than she was of their childhood projects & accomplishments.
My niece, her beloved, and my nephew drove in just to see us! How cool is that? They were all together working on their grandmother’s house; they oversee her affairs. Just one of the many ways they are wonderful. Not because they have to, but because they adore their grandmother, and are just the nicest folks.
Digression (you’ve grown to expect them, I hope? ): I always wanted children. I would have had four or five if I’d had money & time. In that order. I certainly would have had three if we hadn’t lost one in a miscarriage. From the time I was very small (maybe eight?), I told my mother: I will have children. But nowhere in my future life had I imagined how much I would love these children of other mothers. No one could have told me how precious my nieces & nephews would become.
For those of you less fortunate than I am — not to have nieces & nephews? how lonely! — I am so sorry. Adopt! Become a surrogate aunt! I have those — I call them my ‘fairy godmothers.’ They are the women who inspire me: the grandmother of these three (my heart-sister’s mother, who is a total pistol of a nonagenarian!), my first poetry teacher, a woman who serves on a journal’s editorial board with me, the mother of another dear friend. They are like aunts, in their own way.
Not to mention I have my own wonderful aunts — two of them still alive, for which I’m infinitely grateful. As the daughter of seven aunts (and so many great-aunts I can’t count them all), I’ve been in aunt-training for decades! It takes exceptional luck to be a good aunt — what limited skills I have in that area are both inherited & the good fortune of such great rôle models. It’s mostly about unalloyed joy in the presence of the kids (they’re always the kids — even as they hit their later years), and unqualified love and admiration. My nieces & nephews know that I’m their biggest fan — none of that I have to model good parenting for you stuff…
They also know that I am always head-over-heels happy to see them, and will spend as much time as they can spare talking about new jobs, partners, heartbreak, classes, papers, or what jewelry to wear to a job interview. As well as politics, the economics of sustainable farming, film preservation, non-profits, raising kids, buying dogs, and anything else they come up with.
Seriously? There are few folks I’d rather spend time with than these incredibly witty, talented, nuanced and amazing men & women. So again: if you don’t have siblings to provide you with this joy, hustle! Surely some younger person around you could use a besotted aunt. Because believe me: the benefits are uncountable. Your beginner’s heart will grow at least two sizes from loving and learning.